The Confidential Clerk

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First edition cover (Faber & Faber)

The Confidential Clerk is a comic verse play by T. S. Eliot.

Synopsis[edit]

Sir Claude Mulhammer, a wealthy entrepreneur, decides to smuggle his illegitimate son Colby into the household by employing him as his confidential clerk. He hopes that his eccentric wife, Lady Elizabeth Mulhammer, will take a liking to the boy and allow him to live as her adopted son. She in fact becomes convinced that Colby is actually her own son. Meanwhile Lucasta Angel wants to marry B. Kaghan, but neither seems to have any parents at all. A drama of mistaken identity and confusion ensues. The 'confidential clerk' of the title refers both to Colby, in his new job, and Eggerson, Sir Claude's old clerk who is seen retiring at the start of the play but returns in the final act in order to resolve the situation. As in his other plays, Eliot's interests in classical drama are obvious from the formal structures, the subject-matter, and the judgement-scene ending. On the other hand, the influence of drawing room comedy is also paramount and the play is blessed not only with an entertaining if convoluted plot, but a regular peppering of witty one-liners.

Characters[edit]

  • Sir Claude Mulhammer
  • Lady Elizabeth Mulhammer
  • Colby Simpkins
  • Eggerson
  • Lucasta Angel
  • B. Kaghan
  • Mrs Guzzard

Productions[edit]

T. S. Eliot's penultimate play premiered at the Edinburgh Festival in 1953, before transferring to the West End. It played for almost a year at the Duke of York's Theatre before embarking on a UK Tour. It was produced by Henry Sherek and directed by E. Martin Browne.[1] Paul Rogers played Claude and Denholm Elliott played Colby. After this, the only known professional production occurred at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham in the 1970s. Primavera Productions produced the play as part of the 'rediscoveries season 2007' at the Finborough Theatre, directed by Tom Littler.

Trivia[edit]

The Confidential Clerk was the last play to become a New York Times bestseller for 33 years.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Darlington, W. A. (2004). "Henry Sherek". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 27 July 2014.